July 12, 2018

Consumer prices have been creeping upwards over the past year, pushing inflation to its highest point in more than six years, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The Labor Department said that inflation is up 2.9 percent compared to a year ago, even though the consumer price index only jumped a modest 0.1 percent since last month. That's the largest annual gain since 2012, which for some products has offset one-third of the benefit of last year's GOP tax cut bill.

Officials indicated last month that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates two more times this year, which economists expect could curb inflation without undercutting growth too much. The changes could affect wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have declined slightly this year.

Housing costs jumped 3.4 percent over the last year, reports AP, while auto insurance prices have increased 7.6 percent since last year. Medical expenses, cars, lumber, some appliances, and shipping prices have also gone up, but none quite so much as gas, which has skyrocketed 24.3 percent. The good news is that at least furniture, clothes, and air travel prices have stayed steady, and it looks like gas prices are coming back down slightly. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

7:13 p.m.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says that if The New York Times' bombshell report about President Trump asking then-Acting Attorney General to put one of his allies in charge of the investigation into Michael Cohen is correct, this was "an attempt to obstruct justice."

Per the Times, Trump wanted Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to take on the Cohen case; because of a conflict of interest, he had recused himself. While discussing the report with anchor Shepard Smith on Tuesday, Napolitano said such a phone call shows "corrupt intent. That is an effort to use the levers of power of the government for a corrupt purpose, to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies."

Smith asked if this was obstruction of justice, and Napolitano explained it was "attempted obstruction. It would only be obstruction if it succeeded. If you tried to interfere with a criminal prosecution that may knock at your own door by putting your ally in there, that is clearly an attempt to obstruct justice." He also warned that Whitaker, who testified to Congress that the White House never asked for "promises or commitments" about any investigations, could face his own legal issues. "There's two potential crimes here for Matt Whitaker," Napolitano said. "One is actual perjury, lying to the Congress. The other is misleading. Remember, you can be truthful but still misleading." Catherine Garcia

5:47 p.m.

Democrats aren't making it easy to choose a 2020 presidential candidate — or a location for their election-year convention.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez has narrowed down potential Democratic National Convention locations to Houston, Miami, and Milwaukee, with party members saying Milwaukee is in the lead. Yet after the DNC seemingly made final visits to the potential cities, "a fierce debate has unfolded behind the scenes" as Democrats try to pull Perez away from his apparent top choice, The Associated Press reports.

As AP puts it, the convention "could funnel millions of dollars into the local economy" of its chosen city. But Milwaukee has never held an event as big as the Democratic convention, and even though Wisconsin Democrats insist there's enough room for everyone, the city simply has fewer high-end hotels compared to the other two cities. Still, Chicago is just a two-hour drive away, meaning fancy donors could "stay and entertain [there] before traveling to Milwaukee for the biggest prime-time events," AP says.

Houston and Miami would have no problem providing luxury accommodations. But an ongoing labor and wage spat between Houston's mayor and firefighters wouldn't be a good look for a party looking to regain working class voters, AP notes. Miami's best hotels are far from downtown — not to mention that the convention coincides with the start of hurricane season.

Republicans set their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina eight months ago. Democrats, meanwhile, still have a long way to go before their invitations can be sent. Read more at The Associated Press. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:41 p.m.

Thousands of patients were improperly prescribed a highly potent and restricted class of fentanyl, an opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine, between 2012 and 2017, reports CNN.

A paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which was based on nearly 5,000 pages of Food and Drug Administration reports and other documents, described how nearly every party involved in the medical profession — from the FDA and drug companies to doctors and pharmacists — were in part culpable of negligence, allowing the medicine to fall into the wrong hands.

This class of fentanyl is meant only for cancer patients who are experiencing "breakthrough pain" and who have already been prescribed "around-the-clock opioids," writes CNN. Because of its potency, the FDA created a program to monitor prescription of the drug in 2011. The research, however, found that anywhere from 34.6 to 55.4 percent of patients, or about 12,900 people who received the treatments were not, in fact, cancer patients, and were "opioid-nontolerant" or prescribed the drug for conditions such as arthritis. Fentanyl was involved in about 28 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2016, more than any other drug.

"The prescribing of this medicine was supposed to be closely monitored and contained but was not," G. Caleb Alexander, a senior author of the study and director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, per CNN. "What we found was that several years after the program was started, there were alarming deficiencies identified, and yet little was done by the FDA and drug manufacturers to effectively address these problems." Tim O'Donnell

4:45 p.m.

Beto O'Rourke is almost certainly running for something.

After his narrow loss to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last year, the former Democratic congressman has been driving around America and presumably considering a 2020 presidential run. In between road trips, he returned home to be honored as "El Pasoan of the Year" — and dropped some hints about his ambitious political future.

At the El Paso Inc. business journal event on Tuesday, O'Rourke confirmed that he's considering running for president and for Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) seat, presumably in 2020, CNN's Eric Bradner reports. O'Rourke would also be open to a vice presidential nod, he added. He'll make a decision by the end of the month, saying he's still "trying to figure out how I can best serve this country," per the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek.

O'Rourke has consistently polled near the top of 2020 Democratic primary polls despite the fact that he hasn't even announced a run yet. He can't take a very long soul-searching drive to figure it out, seeing as there's barely more than a week left in February. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:08 p.m.

Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters is leaving the White House in an abnormally normal way.

Walters is stepping down after two years for a job with Edelman Public Relations, Bloomberg reports via a White House announcement on Tuesday. Her departure comes about a month after fellow Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah resigned to take a lobbying job.

Besides Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Walters is the only spokesperson who's been on President Trump's staff for his entire presidency. She'll leave in April, saying in a statement it has "been an honor and a privilege to serve the president in this administration," per Bloomberg. Unlike some other recent departures, Sanders and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney praised Walters in a goodbye statement. No replacement has been hired yet, Sanders said.

The news comes just hours after Vice President Mike Pence added a new member to his staff. Marc Short, who served as Trump's director of legislative affairs until last summer, will become Pence's chief of staff in March, Pence announced Tuesday. Short was also Pence's chief of staff back when the vice president was a member of Congress. Pence's ex-Chief of Staff Nick Ayers left the White House in December after publicly rejecting Trump's offer to become his chief of staff. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:07 p.m.

Skydance's hiring of John Lasseter has already resulted in one high-profile departure.

Emma Thompson has dropped out of Luck, a Skydance Animation movie she was set to star in, because of Lasseter's hiring, according to The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline. The actress had already started recording her voice performance for the movie, the Reporter adds. The film is currently scheduled for a 2021 release. Thompson worked with Lasseter on Pixar's Brave, BuzzFeed News points out.

Skydance last month announced it would be hiring Lasseter, the former chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and co-founder of Pixar, to lead its new animation division. This prompted backlash, as Lasseter had left Disney in light of sexual harassment allegations against him. After announcing his hire, Skydance Media CEO David Ellison said that Lasseter had been "analyzing and improving his workplace behavior" and that he has "given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner."

Since then, Deadline reports that Lasseter apologized to Skydance employees for his past behavior. Ellison also recently promoted Holly Edwards into the role of Skydance Animation president, with a source telling the Reporter this was "no doubt a reaction to the backlash on hiring Lasseter." Brendan Morrow

3:23 p.m.

President Trump tried to get his acting attorney general to appoint an ally as the head of an ongoing investigation into his former attorney, The New York Times reports.

Last year, Trump reportedly asked Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if he could get Southern District of New York attorney Geoffrey Berman put in charge of the district's investigation. This probe is what led to charges against Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has said he paid women to stay silent about alleged affairs with Trump and did so at Trump's direction. The SDNY is also currently examining Trump's inaugural committee.

Trump reportedly made the request of Whitaker last year despite the fact that Berman had recused himself from the probe. When Whitaker didn't fulfill his request, Trump "soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president's many legal problems go away," the Times writes, adding that there's "no evidence that [Whitaker] took any direct steps" to interfere in the probe.

The Times also notes that Whitaker is now "under scrutiny" from House Democrats, since he previously told Congress that Trump didn't pressure him to interfere in ongoing investigations. A Department of Justice spokesperson said in a statement that Whitaker "stands by his testimony" since he previously told Congress that "at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation." Whitaker had in his testimony dodged questions about whether he talked with Trump about the SDNY's investigation.

Asked Tuesday whether he asked Whitaker for a change of leadership in the Cohen probe, Trump said, "No, not at all. I don't know who gave you that. That's more fake news." Brendan Morrow

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